With executive looks, luxury build quality and peerless audio pedigree are the B&W P7 headphones worth the wallet-haemorrhaging price tag?
Another month, another high-end pair of headphones from a fantastic audio brand, but in a crowded marketplace stuffed with high-quality options can the B&W P7 headphones - the brand's first over-ear cans - offer anything new?
Marketed as Bowers & Wilkins flagship model - sitting above both the B&W P5 and B&W P3 designs in both spec and price - the B&W P7s are instantly recognisable, elegantly proportioned and beautifully made.
We've raved about on-ear designs such as the Kef M500 and new Sennheiser Momentum, so were keen to know if the all-encompassing over ear design of the B&W P7 could take on all comers and not just compete with the like-for-likes of the B&O BeoPlay H6 and Philips Fidelio L1.
B&W P7: Size and build
The B&W P7 look exceptional, and unlike many pairs of premium headphones actually feel expensive. Thanks to the amount of leather used the box even has a new car smell, and we're talking Bentley rather than BMW. The super-soft stitched leather headband is even reminiscent of a classic steering wheel.
Metal parts are all brushed aluminium and stainless steel and feel as classy as you'd hope for £330. The hinge mechanism - mercifully retained from the portable P3 - is engineered to perfection. They don't fold up small, but will pack down into their own padded clutch bag (15 x 20 x 7cm) and stay safe stuffed in a rucksack.
But they are big, and this large skulled reviewer had to reduce the headband - a very rare occurrence - so those with a petite skull should definitely try before they buy.
B&W P7: Comfort
Unlike the Kef M500s, B&W has gone for super-soft real leather ear pads and unless you're the B.F.G your ears will fit snugly inside. One criticism of the smaller B&W P5 and P3 designs was the overly tight headband, and while the P7 is snug it isn't uncomfortably so - just tight enough to prevent slippage while walking.
Anyone wearing glasses may feel an additional pinch after an extended listen, but it's no worse than most headphone designs and remains a universal problem. If you want our advice - try contact lenses, the headphones are worth it.
B&W P7: Durability
It's not often we come across tech that looks built to last beyond the next Apple announcement, but with the P7s, B&W has produced a pair of headphones that'll age gracefully and still look luxe in years to come.
They're not totally suited to everyday travel despite folding in half - try the Sennheiser Momentums for lighter build and fantastic sound - but they are built tough and shouldn't suffer from public transport filth - unlike the fingerprint-magnet white P3s.
The P7s also come with two 3.5mm cables (one with an in-line mic and three-button remote for iOS devices, and one button free) which is a welcome addition, especially as the cable is often the first component to break.
B&W P7: Sound quality
Rarely have we been so impressed by a first listen. The B&W P7s - thanks to the large 40mm dynamic drivers - create a fantastically open sound, usually reserved for sound leaking on-ear designs. Reproduction is supremely detailed and well balanced coping with the lowest frequencies and highest ranges with utter class.
Every track we played - from the lo-fi punk rock of Borrowed Time by Parquet Courts to That's Alright by Elvis Presley - sounded epic with Elvis' vocal given acres of space alongside Bill Black's bass lines.
While not tuned specifically for bass, hip hop and dance tracks sound powerful and refreshing. Common's Sixth Sense sounds positively epic without the faintest distortion even at full whack.
On the move the over-ear design helps to consolidate the sound quality, but while not as bad as some, sound leakage is noticeable and your fellow commuters may well tut as a result.
B&W P7: Verdict
Even in this post-Beats by Dr. Dre world £330 is a hefty price to pay for a pair of headphones, but the B&W P7 offer a class-topping combination of premium materials and durability, comfort, timeless style and phenomenal sound quality.
Sure, the oversized design might lend itself more towards home listening than the daily commute, but however you decide to use them, you won't be disappointed. That is, if you can afford the considerable chunk of change required to buy them in the first place.
B&W P7 release date: Out now
B&W P7 price: £330